Thursday, April 29, 2010

Quick Update

I feel like I'm neglecting my blog. The days are flying by and each time I look at the clock, it's later than I thought. I'm keeping up but someone needs to add at least a couple of hours to each day!

Regarding my home rehab business, we found a house we like. It's a HUD home, which is a way new experience for me! The home is located north of Pittsburgh and is priced in the 40's, not bad and just in our range for our first home (I'll post pictures if we get it). I learned from our real estate agent that investors have to wait to bid at least a week after the bidding starts (it gives homeowners a chance to get the home), so our bid can go in on May 7th. In the meanwhile, I'm getting everyone's information together to apply for a revocation loan (I hope I got that right) through Fannie Mae. They help pay for the mortgage and some construction costs. I had no idea this type of loan existed. To say I'm relieved is an understatment, at least I will be if we qualify!

I took my oldest daughter to the eye doctor last night and we found out she is nearsighted and needs glasses. I just started wearing +1 glasses for reading only, so I'm kind of a newbie to all this. My husband, on the other hand, is blind as a bat and so the doctor thinks my daughter might have inherited some of his eyesight. She is only 20 over 50 at this point. She was thrilled to pick out glasses and she found a pair she loves. I'm glad she is ok with it all. I was afraid she'd be self conscious about it.

My mother, who is doing pretty poorly with memory loss and walking, decided to move in with my sister until my brother is discharged from the Navy next year and can take her in.My sister is a nurse, so that helps. My mother can no longer care for herself and she is afraid of falling down the steps in her apartment. It's hard to see someone deteriorate.

My husband is thinking about writing a book. He is feeling stuck in his career (and his three jobs routine!) so last weekend we talked about what he'd like to do when he grows up :) He said he'd love to teach full time, college level or seminars, something he does part time now. Since you need a Ph.D to teach college full time and he only has a Master's, I suggested he try his hand at writing a book in his field (psychology) and see if he could base a seminar off it. He can't write, but he can give a mean seminar so I told him I'd help do some writing. We are both out of our element here but it can't hurt to try. I'm sure we'll be asking someone for help sooner than later!

My brother is coming home on leave this summer from Gitmo and I can't wait to see him! Once he gets his orders, we'll know when exactly he'll be home. But just the idea of getting to see him and his kids gives me something fun to look forward to. He wants to buy a house while here so he has a place to come home to next year after discharge. That will keep us busy, but we'll squeeze in a visit to Kennywood park and any other fun we can find.

I managed to fit in my grocery shopping today and I bought the ingredients to make Raspberry Swirl brownies, which I hope turn out so I can post the recipe. Plus I can use some serious chocolate about now, especially if next week is like this one was!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Things On My Mind

You know how each week you get things in your head you either need to do, or need to think out? I thought I might make a list of 13 things in my head I'm working on, thinking through, or that is just stuck there:

1. The Potential Break up song- I took my kids to a new store last week and this song was playing very loudly over the speakers. The kids and I downloaded it and now it's been stuck in my head all week!

2. How to find a house for my business- we decided HUD, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac are probably the best options. Now it's just learning how to buy one through those programs.

3. Angel Food cake- I bought egg whites in a carton and I want to try making an angel food cake out of them. I hope it works. My middle daughter really wants a cake and keeps begging me to make one.

4. Bananas- the bananas are getting very ripe and I need to make something with them.

5. My husband's flight- he has to go to Iowa today to do a seminar and though I'm very used to him being gone, I get nervous when he flies.

6. My oldest daughter- she was diagnosed with enlarged adenoids last week and we also discovered that she has a hard time seeing at a distance. She was on steroids for the adenoids and it seemed to work (thank God. The next option was surgery- ugh!) but now she has bad allergies. The eye doc appt. is next week. I hope it goes well.

7. The adoption- waiting is tough.

8. My mother- she is losing her memory and is having trouble walking. My brother was supposed to be home but his Navy stint got extended, otherwise he would be getting a house with her. Now it's how do we take care of her till he gets home next year. I'm hoping she can hang in there.

9. My brother- he does have to stay in the Navy after we thought he'd be home this year. That means he had to get new orders. He gets to leave Cuba but now he is assigned to a huge ship and he has to go back to the war- his third time. Sailors are safer than ground troops, but I still worry.

10. Our house- it's a nice house but it's too small. I worry that my daughter is sleeping in the basement and that we have no space for anything. I do feel blessed to even have a house, though, so I try not to complain too much.

11. My diet- I try to be good, but it is difficult! I'm at the age where I need to worry about getting enough calcium and iron too. Then there is all that chocolate calling my name.....

12. Health- All of us are healthy, I just worry that someone will get something more than a cold. My husband tells me I worry too much, but I can't help it. It's always in the back of my mind.

13. Money- this past year was hard, on everyone. People lost jobs, and even though my husband worked his usual three jobs, the money wasn't there. We made less last year, for some reason. I also hope things inprove in our economy. I worry about all the spending that is going on. Scary stuff.

What is on your mind today?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Adoptions, Businesses and Chocolate Peanut Butter Layered Cupcakes

Those who have read my blog before know that I am in the process of trying to adopt. We are looking for a little boy under the age of 10, but if he comes with a sibling we are open to it. Well, today we signed our final papers at the new adoption agency (the last one pooped out on us) so the approval process is finally over and we can start actually looking for a child. Yippeeee! The ink wasn't even dry yet and already we've been asked if we want a 10 year old child that is available and if we are willing to go to Texas and Oregon for a kid. Whew! These adoption folks are quick with the questions! We thought we might wait it out and see what other options pop up before we make plans for a road trip.

As for my business, we decided not to take the house in my last posting. After meeting with a banker, he let us know that an unfinished house is considered one of the highest risks in real estate, due to the possible contractors/subcontractors who may show up later and asked to be paid for work on the house they never received reinbursement for. Not something we want hanging over our heads. So the search continues for a house.

In the middle of all this I carved out some time for myself to bake. The stress was getting to me and I needed a release. I found the most sinful recipe I could and baked up a storm. This recipe comes from a local Pittsburgh paper, The Tribune Review. It won a recent Pillsbury Bake Off so you can't go wrong with that! If you like chocolate and peanut butter, you'll love these. I did change them a little to make them slightly less sinful, but I wrote out the original recipe anyway in case you want the full sin version!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Layered Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups flour
1/3 cup baking cocoa
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used applesauce)
1 cup water
1 Tblsp. white vinegar
1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 large egg
1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened (I used fat free)
3/4 cup peanut butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/4 cup Reeses peanut butter chips
1/4 cup semi sweet or dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Line two muffin pans with paper baking cups, using about 18 to 20. Fill water half way in muffin cups not used.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, cocoa, brown sugar, baking soda and salt. Add the oil, water, vinegar and vanilla to the flour mixture and stir until just smooth (do not over mix).

In another large bowl, beat egg, cream cheese, peanut butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until smooth. Add the confectioners' sugar and beat until creamy.

Spoon 1 level tablespoon of chocolate batter into each cup and evenly spread 1 level tablespoon of peanut butter filling on top. Repeat layers. Sprinkle with peanut butter and chocolate chips.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Do not overbake. Cool for 15 minutes then remove cupcakes to a cooling rack and cool completely. Serve warm or cool.

"Adoption is when a child grew in its mommy's heart instead of her tummy."
~Author Unknown

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Am I Really Doing This?

Sometimes I feel like a kid in an adult's body. I even look at my kids sometimes and think they can't be mine cause I'm too young to have kids. And now that I'm a partner in a business, I've found out how much I really don't know!

I wanted to show everyone the reason why I haven't baked one thing this week and why I have no recipe to share. I found a house for our company to rehab. It's located in a plan. The builder only roughed in the house before he quit altogether, for some unknown reason. The house has been sitting here, surrounded by completed homes, for over 7 years. The neighbors are anxious to have it either torn down or completed. We hope to be the company that buys it and gets it done.

But in order to own said house, we have to find a source of money. I spent all weekend writing a business plan (should have done that first, shouldn't I?), figuring out how to do a spread sheet, calling mortgage lenders begging for money and reopening my accidentally closed business bank account. Sleeping soundly is a joke, and I can't relax without going over possible places to get money to buy our house. But I keep reminding myself that I really wanted to do this. Plus lots of other people manage to make it work so I can too.

So it may be a little while before I can share another recipe, but hopefully not. I really could use something chocolate right now!

To open a shop is easy, to keep it open is an art.
-Chinese proverb

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thursday Thirteen- Southern Food

I'm so far behind this week. And that includes with my Thursday Thirteen. I didn't even remember until this morning that today is Thursday! Since I've been feeling homesick (a little more than usual, if that's possible), I thought I might list some of the foods I love from the South. These are foods I can't get easily here in PA so when I go home for a visit, I stock up.

1. Grits- it's easy to get instant grits here, but not real grits. I've been wanting to make Shrimp and Grits for a while now, but I can't get real grits!

2. Greens- I love greens with cider vinegar and bits of ham. Oh my, I'm drooling now. I grow greens every year in my garden and with the cool weather here in the north, I usually get a good crop.

3. Pecan pie- Of course I can get that here in Pa in some places, but most people here don't like it. They say it's too sweet. Is it possible for a dessert to be too sweet?

4. Sweet Potato Pie- I make it almost every Thanksgiving, mostly for myself.

5. Mint Julep- Neither my husband or I drink more than twice a year, but one time in Williamsburg my husband had a mint julep on an empty stomach. It was hysterical to watch as he tried to reason out why he felt so weird.

6. Spoon bread- speaking of Williamsburg, spoon bread is so good. When I mention to my friends here that it's on my Thanksgiving or Christmas menu, they have no idea what it is.

7. Sweet potatoes- With butter and brown sugar. Oh my.

8. Pinto beans- Not found as a side dish anywhere here except Cracker Barrel. I go there to get my fix. I eat mine with mustard and ketchup. Yum!

9. Corn bread- it's getting more common here, but it's still mostly Italian bread you find in restaurants and with most folk's dinners. I still don't have a great corn bread recipe to use, but I'm still looking.

10. Biscuits- no one makes them better than Southerners!

11. Sauces- from BBQ to glazes, I love them all.

12. Black eyed peas- I eat them with mustard too. They are also great to toss into sweet and tangy salads.

13. Sweet tea- I made a batch almost everyday. Everyone in my house drinks it like water!

What is your favorite Southern foods?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Easter Sweets And Other Fun

I hope everyone had a wonderful Easter! I think it was our busiest Easter ever. On Thursday, my little guy had a Kindergarten Easter party at school and I was drafted to make cupcakes. I cheated and used a cake mix. I don't think the kids noticed :)

On Friday, each of my kids had friends over for a total of 9 kids in the house. I had pizza, chips, soda and popsicles for them, which they promptly finished off in no time. It was beautiful outside so they all ran up and down and throughout the house. It sounded like a herd of screaming elephants came for a visit.

Saturday was buying summer clothes for my oldest and a visit to the spa (courtesy of an anniversary gift certificate from my husband) for me and my girls. That night, our neighbors who raise dogs for show, let us come by and socialize the puppies. That was lots of fun! The kids didn't want to leave and there were lots of pleas of "Oh, we've got to buy one!" Hard to resist, let me tell you. There were so cute!

Then Sunday was Easter. We had an Easter egg hunt, colored eggs and ate lots of candy! I made a bunny cake for dessert for my mother in law, who did dinner.

Here are some pictures I managed to take:

This one wouldn't leave my husband's side. I had to peel my husband away when we left. It was a close one!

So cute! I just wanted to hug them all at the same time.

The cupcakes for my son's party. I managed to take this picture in my car on the way to school to drop the cupcakes off (I was parked at the time!)

Hoppy Easter Bunny cake. My daughter decorated him. I think she did a great job!

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Happy Easter!

Have a wonderful, blessed holiday!